Founders Bios

Alpha Delta Kappa was founded in 1947 by Agnes Shipman Robertson, Marie Neal, Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino, visionary women who saw a need to recognize and support the professional efforts of outstanding women educators. Since 1947, over 125,000 women educators around the world have discovered the many opportunities provided by membership in Alpha Delta Kappa — opportunities for recognition of commitment to educational excellence, for personal and professional growth and for collectively channeling their energies toward the good of schools, communities, the teaching profession and the world.

Alpha Delta Kappa was incorporated in the state of Missouri in 1947, but a realization that such an organization was needed was born a quarter of a century earlier. Thomas H. Neal, Sr. and his wife, Alpha Delta Kappa Co-Founder Marie Neal, traveled to numerous teacher meetings, at which he represented a book company. The late Marie Neal recalled that "teachers came in, listened to speeches and went their way. We talked about how they needed something to draw them together and to enhance their professional attitudes and attributes."

Agnes Shipman Robertson had also noticed the lack of a catalyst to promote closer professional ties among women educators. Together with Marie Neal, their discussion led to Agnes Shipman Robertson becoming the organizational founder and Marie Neal became the executive secretary-treasurer of Alpha Delta Kappa. Agnes Shipman Robertson administered expansion and membership duties, while Marie Neal conducted the office work from her home in Kansas City with the assistance of Co-Founder Marion Southall. Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino were members of the first executive board. The National Executive Board was established soon after Alpha Delta Kappa’s chartering. In 1954, a new governing body of Alpha Delta Kappa was organized. A slate of "National Officers" appeared in the KAPPAN directory, along with the "Permanent Executive Board." Marion Southall became Vice President of Alpha Delta Kappa. Agnes Shipman Robertson was President of the National Executive Board and National President until 1955 when the first National Convention was held, and Vera Neel McCauley became the first elected National President. Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino became inactive in 1956. In 1957 the slate of "National Officers" became known as "Grand Officers," and the Grand Chapter was born. In 1999, the International Executive Board voted to change the title "Grand" to "International." Grand Officers became known as International Officers and the Grand Chapter is now known as the International Chapter.

Founders Photos

Top Row: Agnes Shipman Robertson and Marie Neal
Bottom Row: Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino

Agnes Shipman Robertson was born January 24, 1895 and received her early education in Joplin, Missouri. Majoring in music with a minor in art, she received her teaching credentials from Missouri State College in Springfield and Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee. Agnes then returned to Joplin, where she became a music teacher and later an assistant principal. While she was head of the junior high music program, several of the groups under her tutelage earned recognition at interstate competitions. Agnes was also active in church and community musical groups.

In her work, Agnes observed that schools could accomplish more with better equipment and proper materials. She accepted a job with an educational company and traveled most of the United States and Canada as she explained the importance of proper equipment and materials, as well as their efficient use by educators.

Through her travels with the educational company, Agnes formed connections with many teachers, superintendents and principals, and attended many National Education Association conventions.

It was also through her travels that Agnes frequently spoke with teachers like herself who knew of a fellow teacher in the system, but did not know her personally. Agnes realized a need for an organization that would facilitate teachers coming together and getting to know each other.
Former Executive Administrator Opal Lunsford told of Agnes driving across the country to facilitate the birth of the organization. "Agnes was 24 hours a day, eight days a week, Alpha Delta Kappa."

Agnes and Co-Founder Marie Neal were very good friends. "Agnes and Tom Neal, Sr., Marie’s husband, worked together representing the book company," Opal said. In Alpha Delta Kappa "Agnes was the promoter, she did the traveling. Marie Neal kept the records and handled the money in her office at home." Often, "Tom and Marie would go with her to install chapters. Agnes carried the initiation material in the trunk of her car. They would take cookies and get punch for the initiation ceremonies."

Agnes Shipman married L.E. Robertson in February 1966.

When Alpha Delta Kappa was incorporated under Missouri law, Founders Agnes Shipman, Marie Neal, Marion Southall and Hattie Poppino signed the incorporation agreement. Marion’s husband, Richard Southall, was the attorney. On August 13, 1947, Alpha Delta Kappa, honorary fraternal organization for women educators, was incorporated. Agnes served as the first Grand President from 1947-1955, Executive Director from 1955-1985, and Executive Director Emeritus from 1985-1987.

Agnes "always had visions," Opal said. "Every night she would come up with something new. She would come back from trips loaded with ideas. She would pass these ideas on staff to implement so that she could then go on to other things. She was a great thinker as she drove. She thought of ways to work things, ways to grow." Agnes would start about three chapters in a state and leave them with field representatives she had trained to assist the state in developing more chapters on its own. Opal remembers that "as she traveled, she developed as well, and always came back with new techniques for membership development, which was always her primary goal."

Opal spent some time traveling with Agnes to conferences and conventions. "Agnes was interesting to travel with," Opal said. "She was quite a speaker, she was great before an audience. She was loving and kind. The members more than took care of her (when she traveled). She made fast friends, friends for a lifetime. She never forgot anyone."

Even after her retirement in 1985, Agnes continued to tirelessly promote Alpha Delta Kappa until her death on April 27, 1987. Opal said she will always think of Agnes as "an inspiration to everyone. She was a very strong person. If she had an idea she thought would work, she upheld it. She was always in total control." She believes Agnes would be proud of Alpha Delta Kappa today. "I think she would be very pleased. We’re all very happy with it. We’re happy to be associated with professional people. We strive to do what’s best for Alpha Delta Kappa. While we make changes and go forward, we try to maintain our heritage."

Marion Southall was born in Kansas City, Missouri on July 27, 1897 and received her teaching credentials from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. Upon graduating from Baker, Marion was employed by a local publishing house where she was in charge of proof reading and accounting. Marion was active in her Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter, and various church and civic projects. Her husband, Richard C. Southall, attorney, acted as general counsel to Alpha Delta Kappa.

Before reasons beyond her control forced her to go inactive in 1956, Marion served as the first National Vice-President and head of the Executive Board. Marion was killed in a car accident on May 16, 1971.

The official song of Alpha Delta Kappa, "The Lamp of Alpha Delta Kappa" was composed by Carolyn and Richard Southall, children of Co-Founder Marion Southall. Richard wrote the music for "There is a Sorority in Our Town" as well.

Hattie Poppino was born in Kansas City, Missouri on February 11, 1897 and attended Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, before earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Emporia State Teachers College. She also completed summer study at the University of Chicago.

A teacher for many years, Hattie taught commerce and library at Garnett and Chanute, Kansas, before becoming the librarian at Argentine High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 1945. Hattie was a member of several professional associations, including the National Education Association, Kansas Teacher's Association, Kansas Library Association, and the Kansas Association of School Librarians.

Hattie’s classroom teaching experience was instrumental in formulating the policies and aspirations of Alpha Delta Kappa. Hattie passed away September 22, 1986.

Marie Neal was born in Joplin, Missouri, on November 16, 1898 and received her teaching certificate in high school history and economics from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. While at Baker, Marie served two terms as treasurer of Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Marie’s belief that a fraternal organization could create a strong bond between women, an idea so important to the founding of Alpha Delta Kappa, began with her collegiate sorority experience.

Marie married Thomas Neal of Kansas City in 1921 and accompanied him on all of his business travels during their first year of marriage. As her husband’s company worked closely with the public schools, Marie had the opportunity to meet many teachers and educators. Through her acquaintances, Marie realized the need for an organization like Alpha Delta Kappa and her role in its founding and management reflect both her interest in fraternal organizations for women and her concern for women educators.

Marie served Alpha Delta Kappa as Executive Secretary-Treasurer from 1947 until her death May 20, 1969.